How do I Earn a Sociology PhD?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 26 October 2018
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A sociology PhD gives people the credentials they need to participate in a number of socially based projects, or to apply to universities as teachers. There are many programs offering this doctorate, and they may each have slightly different requirements for admission. For those who want the most choices as to where they earn a sociology PhD, it makes sense to fulfill the most stringent requirements so that the majority of schools will accept an application. After a student has been accepted, he or she should plan to devote at least four to five years of study before earning a degree.

One of the primary questions those interested in earning a sociology PhD have is whether they will need an undergraduate degree or master’s degree to get into a program. Many schools will take students with a bachelor’s degree but a few holdouts prefer to accept students who have already earned a master’s. Degree focus is another issue of interest. Some colleges insist on a degree in sociology and others are more flexible and are happy to accept students with degrees in subjects like anthropology, social work or others. Work experience after school in a sociology field, even if a person has an unrelated undergraduate major, could be a way to get into some schools.


Schools make clear additional requirements for application to a sociology PhD program. They usually include a specified grade point average, which varies from school to school. Many programs require that people take standardized tests like the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), and there is a GRE subject test in sociology that students might have to take as well. Submitting academic or professional letters of recommendation is fairly standard, and many schools also want a personal statement or an academic writing sample. Students from foreign countries may additionally need to prove their language skill by taking competency testing.

Before students complete all of these requirements, it’s advised they get a good sense of the focus of each sociology PhD program in which they have an interest. Some schools have very specific points of interest, while others are more open and diverse in direction. If a student already has a sense of his specific sociology areas of study, he may want to chose a strongly diverse school, or find those schools that best align with interest.

After a student has selected schools, met all requirements, and successfully applied, she begins work on the sociology PhD. Classes are usually a combination of core courses that are required and electives. Classwork can take two to three years to complete, and then students begin work on their dissertation. This is an extensive project that takes a couple of years to complete. When finished, it is presented to members of the faculty who read and either approve or deny it. Approval means a student is eligible to graduate and receive a doctorate.



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